Coronavirus: Charity struggling to get food supplies to ensure homeless are fed
Will Hawes heads up WILL2LIVE, an operation he started himself eight years ago from his home in Haberfield in the city’s west.
Every night he along with some dedicated volunteers drive into the city to barbecue sausages and offer those sleeping rough a cup to tea and a chat.
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“Getting the basics like sugar, coffee, sausages and bread is a new logistic challenge for us to deal with. Oz Harvest, our main food supplier had to cut their resources to us amid the crisis,” he told news.com.au.
“The shortage of supplies will be temporary, we hope, but we can’t be certain.”
Turning to the supermarket to make up the shortfall has been “impossible”. Shelves have been stripped bare. He can’t get sausages, long-life milk or serviettes and said: “forget about hand sanitiser”.
“Supermarkets are enforcing a two-pack limit per customer and we go through three packs a night – that’s three 24 packs,” he said.
“I’ve gone into the supermarket, and sometimes there is just one eight-pack left. I can’t buy what I need. We need 350-plus sausages every week.”
Making sure people are cared for right now is more pressing than ever as Mr Hawes claims fewer food trucks are making their nightly rounds
“Over the past few weeks we have seen a significant increase in demand from our nightly meal services, and we are doing our best to respond,” Mr Hawes told news.com.au.
“Like other organisations, we are also dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus on our volunteers; many are now unable to attend their regular shifts due to social distancing recommendations.”
To date, there has been no specific response from any level of government to address the coronavirus situation for the homeless community.
Supplies like food and sanitary items are needed now more than ever.
“In other countries like the US they are installing temporary hand washing facilities and issuing personal hygiene kits,” said Mr Hawes
“We are yet to see a response here in Sydney that directs support to homeless people.”
Mr Hawes said he has no intention of scaling back his operation and is determined to keep helping out, but he is worried COVID-19 has the potential infiltrate the streets at an alarming rate – and cause many deaths.
“They [homeless people] tend to think they may not get it because they mix in different circles from the general public.
“While they don’t go to gyms, cafes or airports, the risk is if they touch something that someone else who is infected has touched, then of course, they will get it.”
According to ABS Census data, there are approximately 116,427 Australians without a home. The data shows that at least 14,851 homeless people are over the age of 55.
Fatality among seniors has proven to be particularly high, even though coronavirus can infect people of all ages.
There is no denying the fact that Mr Hawes is dealing with a challenging situation, one he needs to manage carefully to ensure the safety of those still able to volunteer and the people he helps each night.
“We have increased our already strict hygiene measures at our nightly barbecue,” he said.
“The Pharmacy has been generous enough to supply our volunteers with hand sanitiser and masks to use between serving food.
“We are also encouraging social distancing as best we can. The trouble is, the homeless are more vulnerable if they isolate themselves, but more susceptible to contracting the virus if they don’t.”
Mr Hawes hopes his plea for help might bring in donations and direct the government to addressing this issue – before it is too late.
“There are so many people on the streets who can’t get access to any help and that makes their lives really tough,” he said.
For more information about how you can help or donate, visit: www.will2live.com.au
Originally published as Feeding homeless during outbreak